Thursday, February 19, 2015

15 Mountains in 2015 - #2: Beinn Capuill

My second mountain in 2015 was much smaller than the first. About half the size really. And it certainly doesn't feature on Munro's list of mountains over 3000 feet, not even on Corbett's list of mountains over 2500 feet or Graham's list of mountains over 2000 feet. But if there was a list of Scottish mountains over 1500 feet, then somewhere near the end of that list would be Beinn Capuill.

Its not a well trodden path. Indeed, for much of the route that I chose there wasn't any path. And such paths as there were were hardly in good condition.

Anyway, here it is:

Thursday 19th February, Beinn Capuill.

The skyline above the small Argyll town of Tighnabruaich is dominated by a small hill, known locally as 'The Duin' ("doo-in"). Behind this, a bit higher up, are some very minor crags, marked on the OS map as 'Cnoc an Fhithich' which completely hide the 'peak' of Beinn Capuill from view from the town.

I've climbed Beinn Capuill, or something that sounds like "Ben Ach Apple" when the locals name it, before, about 14 or 15 years ago. That day was grey and windy and the ground was very, very boggy. That time, I took the obvious path, starting from the Duin. This time I decided to try a different route, and began by following the 'public right of way' marked as 'path to new road' from just above the boat yard at Rubha Ban. Clearly, not many people use this path. Here's some pics of the bridges on it:



Yes, not only was the third bridge almost completely ruined, it was also almost completely overgrown and also crossed into the middle of a muddy thicket that took quite a while to escape from! But eventually I made it up to the A8003 (the 'new road'; well, it was new in the 1960s) and up a few steps to the signposted viewpoint (looking SSW towards Ardlamont point):

And here's a panorama taking in all of Bute:

Here the path stopped. I crossed the rough ground above the viewpoint, climbed a deer fence, and scrambled up the hillside, to the top called Cnoc a' Chaisteil on the OS map. Then across a boggy, gnarly, bit of ground, across another deer fence (this one with a stile), and finally climbed up another rough slope to reach the plateau. Which looked a bit like this:

Finally, the top was in sight. But first there was an extremely boggy plateau to cross. There were occasional paths here, but none seemed to actually go anywhere useful, and all ended up in bogs, so there was nothing for it than to simply head across the ground in a vaguely straight line towards the top. Once across the plateau there was a steep, but much nicer, climb which zig-zagged between rock and small cliffs right to the top:

Success! Number 2 of 2015 in the bag. Here's the view from the top in three different directions:

Shortly after this it started sleeting, so I hastily made my way back down, this time following the direct 'path' to Tighnabruaich. At this point I saw a pretty big stag, but it had cleared off long before I got my camera out to take a pic. I also saw the remains of two sheep, both of which appeared to have taken unlucky tumbles off some small crags.

Looking back on the way down, Beinn Capuill looked more like a mountain than it had at any point on the way up:

And here's the view from Cnoc an Fhithich towards the Duin and Tighnabruaich:

Here's the map of the route, red on the way up, blue on the way back down:

I'm not sure I'd go as far as recommending this walk to anyone. It is probably the boggiest walk I've ever done. But I enjoyed it nevertheless. Think I'll aim for something higher for my 3rd mountain of 2015.

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Sunday, February 01, 2015

15 Mountains in 2015 - #1: Ben Chonzie

My new year's resolution for 2015 is simple to express, possibly harder to achieve. The aim is to climb 15 mountains this year. Which is way more than I've ever climbed in a year before. But you may as well set your sights high, I guess. The mountains don't need to be Munros (although I hope a fair few are) and it doesn't matter if I've done them before. 

So here is #1 on the list. 

Sunday 1st Feb 2015. Ben Chonzie, near Comrie.

This is the first mountain I've climbed in proper snow, so I thought I'd better not go for anything too ambitious. Instead I opted for the mountain considered by some to be the most "boring" Munro of the lot, Ben Chonzie. I'd heard that there's basically a well marked path most of the way, then you follow the fence posts to the top. Sounds easy enough. And so it was, despite the snow.

But what a glorious day! For the most part there was little in the way of wind and not too much in the way of cloud. The conditions at the top were a bit different, but we'll get there in a bit. For now, here is a pic of me, just setting out at Glen Lednock:

And here, a few minutes further up the path is my walking companion and brother-in-law, Ewan:

In warmer weather, this 'path' is really a ford and you have to cross at the dam if you don't want wet feet. Not the case on this occasion:

The icicles on the fence beside the dam were perhaps the best icicles I've ever seen:

Looking South-South-West from Invergeldie dam:

From here, the path got a bit steeper and more snow covered, but there were occasional patches of bare ground for a spot of sunbathing:

Or to stop and check the map:

About 3/4 of the way up we left the path and branched out across a pathless snowfield, aiming for the ridge above:

Once on the ridge, the wind picked up and the temperature noticeably dropped, but it was a fairly easy climb to the top. So here's me at the top of Ben Chonzie, my 16th Munro, and the first of my 15 mountains in 2015:

Couldn't keep my gloves off for long! After about 30s I was losing sensation in my hands! We didn't stay too long at the top, but returned hastily along the ridge, looking for a sheltered spot for lunch. Along the way, we saw some amazing patterns in the snow, formed around the footprints of a walker on a previous day:

Here's a cairn and the view to the West (or North West) from the ridge:

In the end, the storm shelter proved a good place for a lunch break. Its been up several mountains with me before, but never actually used for its intended purpose before now:

The walk down was fairly easy, but we wished we'd thought to bring sledges. Or skis, like these people:

(There are three skiers in there if you look carefully.) Odd thing is, we saw about 5 or 6 skiers coming down the mountain, but not a single person carrying skis up the mountain...?

All in all, a great day for my first snow covered mountain. Must do one again. Here's the map of our route, showing red most of the way up, then blue. 7.7 miles in total, according to my phone, with a 2,681 foot elevation gain.

Details of the next of my 15 mountains coming soon...

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